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Monday, October 19, 2020

Randhawa and Huskey talk Title IX, Aramark over sandwiches

By Ndey Sonko and Western Front Staff

President Sabah Randhawa and Vice President of enrollment and student affairs Melynda Huskey held “Sandwiches with Sabah,” on Wednesday, Oct. 17, where students were given an opportunity to talk with two of the highest administrators at Western.

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The conversation topics varied from the status of construction of the new Multicultural Center, Western’s plans to work with the Shred the Contract movement against Aramark, sexual assault prevention and Randhawa’s own experience in college.

First, Ethnic Student Center Advocacy Director James Pai asked how student opinion was being incorporated into the new Multicultural Center construction. Huskey responded that student opinion is already being incorporated into the architecture of the building, but she is currently prioritizing feedback on the offices needed in the new building.

Fairhaven student and Shred the Contract organizer Steven Sullivan asked Randhawa and Huskey about their plans to cut ties with Aramark, Western’s current food provider, after their contract expires in two years. Sullivan shared that the matter is a personal one for him. He was incarcerated at Skagit County Jail and worked for Aramark. He said he was often paid in leftover food.

“The decision to stay with Aramark is an economic decision that doesn’t take into account social reasons,” Sullivan said.

Huskey said if Western decides not to renew Aramark’s contract, administration will work with Shred the Contract as well as an outside contractor to find a new food provider. The two want to explore all options and are even considering a self-operating system, which Huskey said hasn’t been done in more than 20 years.

Huskey and Randhawa were also asked if they would consider the local food Co-Op as a potential food provider.

“Anyone who can meet that requirement and provide for the campus completely will be considered,” Huskey said. “Whoever we end up with should fill all ranges of health, production and benefit to all Western students.”

Randhawa and Huskey also discussed the university’s current plans to address allegations and incidents of sexual assault. Students were curious about what preventative measures were being taken.

Huskey said administration has been working on long and short-term solutions, including additional sexual assault training for both students and faculty as well as increasing campus and city police visibility.

Prior to registering for class, incoming students are required to complete Haven, an online training that educates students about consent. Now, Huskey said students will also be required to complete a training during their second year, once they move off campus.

Students also brought up concerns about Huxley College Professor Paul Stangl, who was found to have violated Section 2 of the Code of Faculty Ethics in which faculty must avoid sexual harassment, intimidation and exploitation of students.

“We hear you,” Randhawa said. “We’re looking at it very, very closely and we will be transparent about what we can be transparent about.”

Huskey emphasized that each reported case is handled while keeping the safety of students in mind, as well as education for the offender. Huskey currently holds the role of Deputy Title IX Officer. According to an article from the AS Review, Huskey is currently involved in a lawsuit that alleges she mishandled a Title IX case at Washington State University when she was Dean of Students and interim Vice President for Student Affairs.

Lastly, Randhawa was asked why he felt events like this were important to have on campus. He said it’s very important to hear directly from students because even if he doesn’t have an exact answer or solution, he likes to know what his students are concerned about. Randhawa said he intends on doing one event per quarter.

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